July 28, 2016

PCOS and a New Direction


Here’s a link to the guts of the post if you’re in a hurry!

It has definitely been awhile since I last updated you all, not for lack of commitment or any other reason than I just haven’t had the time, and life has just been wonderfully busy. I follow many healthy-living blogs and it’s interesting when a blogger takes a break from blogging like I have; sometimes it means that they’ve taken a break to do something different for a while – maybe they’ve even hit a bump and/or recessed into bad habits and are too embarrassed to write about it…which is sad because it happens and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.  For me, it has truly been that I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the opportunity to sit and write.  In addition, I haven’t had much interesting to share…sure, I’d sit and try to come up with something to tell you, but all that’s really happened is that I am still here, making the best decisions I can every single day and that’s pretty much it – kinda boring, right?  The good news is that I have not recessed, I have not gone back to unhealthy eating and I have not stopped my fitness journey.  Again, boring. 

What I have done however, is unknowingly discovered how to maintain the same weight for almost 3 straight years.  That’s a good thing, right?  Of course it is…however, that was not my intention.  I have spent the last 2 ½ years trying to continue to lose.  It has not happened.  I have tried everything – less calories, more calories, more working out, less working out.  Here I sit at the same weight I reached nearly three years ago.  IF I was in maintenance mode that would absolutely be part of the success story.  But I’m not…I am still 30-40lbs away from what I believe is my healthy weight.  That doesn’t mean that when I lose 30lbs I won’t feel great and decide that is where I want to be.  It just means that I still have weight to lose.  And even though I want to lose more weight, that does not mean that I will stop when I get there; this is my life now and I feel great.  THAT is what I set out to do.  Also, please don’t get me wrong when I say that maintaining a loss of 85lbs is not a success story – are you kidding me?  I KNOW it is – and I am so proud of myself for not gaining any of that weight back.  But I’m not where I know my body needs to be, so that means I keep going.

So my blog today is twofold: 
1)  Popping in to say “Heyyyyy!” and
2)  Updating you on my journey and where I am today.

If I could take it back a little bit for some background; please bear with me:

Many of you may know that I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) but maybe you don’t know a whole lot about it.  PCOS is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders affecting women and it presents itself in a myriad of symptoms that vary from woman to woman.  I was diagnosed with PCOS at 25 years old. At the time, there was very little information out there about this disease that affects your metabolic system as well as a host of other things like infertility. At my diagnosis, all that my doctor told me is that I wouldn’t be able to have kids; that was it.  The conversation went like this:

Doc:  “You have cysts on your ovaries…you have polycystic ovarian syndrome.”

Me:  “Um, what does that mean?”

Doc:  “You won’t have kids. You should be on birth control to regulate your period and here is a prescription.”

That was it.  And I was dumb enough to take the script, walk out and not ask another question about it.

It was a shock to me – but only because I thought at the time that I wanted kids…and to be quite honest, I don’t even know how badly I wanted them, but when someone tells you that you CAN’T have something, what the first thing you want???   So the Hubs and I talked, changed directions and created a different life that has been pretty damn awesome. What I didn’t know at the time, and what my horrible doctor didn’t tell me, is the role that PCOS would play in my life…it is at the heart of almost all of my health issues.  When people hear “PCOS” they don’t think of the host of things this disease touches and is responsible for.  Most people think it is ONLY an infertility issue.  It is absolutely not just that, and for me, the disease manifested itself in weight gain.  I began gaining weight when I turned 16; it slowly crept on from there. I have always loved food, but I ate like a normal person.  Of course just like most people, I overdid it sometimes, but unlike most people, my metabolic system could not handle the things I put into my body.  The difference between me and most people is that no matter what I ate, I gained weight…and lots of it…140lbs to be exact…an entire ‘nother Jenn. 15 years after my diagnosis, I decided to get my shit together and figure this out; I decided that being obese was not how I wanted to live my life.  PCOS was not going to continue to beat me, and I was going to win.  Little did I know at that time, how much this disease would continue to plague me. 

So I started my journey and within two years, I lost 85lbs.  85lbs since I took control of my life and I couldn’t be more proud of that fact.  But see, I gained 140lbs and if you do the math, you realize that I still have some pounds to go.  Only here’s the thing, once I hit a certain weight, I have hit the proverbial wall.  And that wall has been standing in my way for 2 ½ years.  I have not lost A POUND from my lowest weight in 2 ½ years.  How is that possible?  I’ve gained a few pounds here and there (vacations and holidays!), but I have ALWAYS been able to get back on track as soon as I return and I can lose that weight in less than 5 days.  It’s just that my body literally refuses to go below this weight.  How many people do you know that hit a wall and stop and just quit?  Not me, nope, I’m not quitting.  I just wake up every day and keep going.

Let me be clear:  remaining here has not been a struggle.  I am living the life I want to live, eating healthy and incorporating fitness is my norm and not at all ANYTHING that I struggle to do.  What has been a struggle for me is the mental aspect of constantly adjusting and trying to figure out what will work for me to LOSE weight.

But what that means is that I am constantly adjusting, which is something many people do not know they have to do.  If I can impart one piece of advice, know at the beginning of your journey that you will have to take lots of different turns!

So, after taking matters into my own hands, advocating for myself, finding a doctor that is on the same page as I am and continuing to take control of my health, I am at a place today where I can share more about my journey with you.  I have drastically changed my way of eating and have cut out grains and sugars – what some would poo-poo when I say “Low carb or ketogenic eating.”

Know this about me: I am obsessed with living a healthy life and I have found something that I am passionate about.  I’m not talking about how or what I am eating, what I am passionate about is living a life that incorporates health and happy living.  That means I am in constant learning mode when it comes to health and wellness.  I set out to change my life and that is what I did.  I started out doing one thing and it has evolved into so much more.  My advice to anyone who asks is to find what works for you; find something that you can sustain for life.  What I do may not work for you, just as what you do may not work for me.  My journey is not your journey and vice versa.  And believe me the journey is never-ending.

I am insulin resistant and this is a game changer.

What does that mean?

Without getting too “science-y” first let me explain what insulin does:  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and it helps your body turn glucose (sugars) into energy.  It also helps your body store that glucose in your muscles, fat cells, and liver to use later when your body needs it. (Someday soon I will share a post about fat adaptation and how your body uses fat for fuel, stay tuned!)

When you eat, your insulin increases in order to turn your food into that energy.  Insulin resistance is a metabolic condition in which the body produces insulin but doesn’t know how to use it effectively. There’s all of this excess insulin hanging out with nothing to do…the more glucose you eat (in the form of sugars and starches), the more your pancreas has to pump out insulin to take care of it…and your pancreas can only put out so much.  It does not have a never-ending supply of insulin.  Because I was overweight for so long and feeding my body the things it was not able to process, my pancreas no longer has the ability to work the way it is supposed to.  People with IR have cells that aren’t able to absorb glucose, which then causes a buildup of sugar in the blood.  Excess sugar in the body is stored as fat.  And this sugar is not “candy”; your body turns sugars, rice, bread, potatoes, pasta and even some fruits into sugars.  IR can happen to anyone, and women with PCOS are prone to also having insulin resistance because of their ability to easily store fat.  And guess how you can combat these issues?  You must lose weight.  It is a vicious cycle:  you are prone to weight gain and to get better, you have to lose weight…yet your body fights hard against losing because it is flawed. Weight loss and healthy living are hard enough, now add in an issue like insulin resistance/metabolic syndrome…no wonder so many people give up.  Now that I know how biologically difficult it is for some people, I have so much more of an understanding and I hope to impart that to you today.  Instead of assuming that someone who is overweight is lazy and unmotivated, or has given up, perhaps consider the fact that their body may be working against them and that every day it is a battle for them.  We need more sympathy and understanding in this world!

So what is one way that you can avoid having excess insulin and glucose just hanging out in your body?  Stop eating the things that make your pancreas pump out too much insulin that your body doesn’t know what to do with.  To do this, I have chosen to stop eating sugars and grains.  I am living a low carb, high fat lifestyle.  This is where I lose people and I get the roll of the eyes.

Society does not understand the work that some people have to put in to be healthy.  It is not always as simple as cutting calories and exercising.  If it was only that, I would be one of the healthiest people on the planet. 

Confirming that I am IR means that I have to go about losing fat in a different way than most people.  Is it weird that I have to explain all of this in a super long and drawn out blog post?  It's weird to me, but when some of your friends and family members look at you as if you are out of your mind, you feel the need to explain.  So, here is what I emphatically want to tell you:

Dear friends and family whom I adore:

I am CHOOSING to eat in a way that has been shown to COMBAT the biological, metabolic issue that I have.  I have a disease and I am battling it by giving it MEDICINE in the form of FOOD…food that works with my body to fuel it, and to keep it healthy, and to keep me from the horrible long-term effects of insulin resistance such as diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke.  Will I eat cookies and cake and ice cream and bread and pizza and pasta again??  OF COURSE I WILL, but I will have to do it very sparingly and it will never again be my norm. I know that you want me to live a long life so I ask that you please understand that this is my new norm and that I need to do this in order to be as healthy as I can be.  Thank you for your support!

Love, Jenn



January 16, 2016

Bod Pod: One Year's Results

One year ago I signed up for my first Bod Pod test. A Bod Pod uses air displacement to measure body mass and can tell you, pretty accurately, how much lean or fat mass your body carries. It also gave me my RMR which is the amount of calories my body burns at rest; my true starting point. Add in exercise and you can gauge the amount of calories you should consume to lose or gain depending on your goals. Today, I had my 2nd test done and I am pretty excited about my results. I lost 2.3% or 6lbs of fat (FAT, not water, fat!), and gained a little over 2lbs of muscle.  Contrary to what many people believe, muscle is not easy to build so this was exciting to me. Additionally, I raised my RMR which means that at even at rest, I'm burning more calories than I used to, and my Total Energy Expenditure (my average daily calorie burn during activity) by 450 calories! This seems like a lot of numbers but the bottom line is that small, daily efforts truly do lead to long term, staggering results. Healthy is not just about what the scale says; and if you think it is, you've set yourself up for failure and you're not in the game for the right reason. Healthy is about healing yourself from the inside and taking care of all of your parts, not just the outside.

One year. The time passed whether I wanted to put in the effort or not. Today I could be sitting here disappointed in myself for what I didn't do, but instead I did what I needed to, and received positive results that said that everything I'm doing is working. And I look forward to seeing what each year will bring!

So, will you put in the time and effort and invest in yourself? Will you be able to look back a year from now and be thankful for the work you put in? I believe in you; I know you can. Now go, get to it!

December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Today I finished 2015 with a 4 mile reflective run so I felt the need to share my thoughts with my friends 😊 

I'm not one of those people that has to have music when I run; oftentimes I use that time to think...many times I'm really just thinking about how great it'll feel when I'm done 😜 As 2015 comes to a close, I thought back to this time last year. Of course at that time, I was ever hopeful that I would finally reach my goal weight, but an entire year later, I am finally able to laugh at the fact that I still anchored "health" with a number. Healthy is so much more than what the scale says! I honestly believe that now. I am thankful that I'm closer to a more appropriate weight for me than I was last year, but continuing to put a timeframe on it is ridiculous. Life throws in hurdles to challenge you and hands you amazing opportunities to prove to yourself that you're stronger than you think. This year brought so many opportunities. I was handed a few illness and injury obstacles. I know that at some point I won't be able to compare "Unhealthy Jenn" with "Healthy Jenn" anymore but for now, I still can. UJ would have given up as soon as one of these obstacles showed up. But HJ can't even imagine giving up. These challenges are strength builders. I was set to run my first half marathon and never got to do it because of my torn meniscus. My heart was broken - but I  never gave up; instead today I can celebrate that before getting hurt I ran the farthest I had ever run: 9 miles...and I'm thankful that my running days are not over like I thought they would be. I was also given the opportunity to spend more time working out at Crossfit and fell in love all over again; it helps me mentally and physically. I have met wonderful people and have amazing coaches that tailored workouts for me while I rehabbed. I learned to be a little more patient while listening to my body. 

As I begin my 5th year of my healthy makeover, I AM healthy. That was my goal all along, and here I am healthier than I have been since high school. Four years ago if you'd have told UJ where she'd be today, she wouldn't have believed you. But here we are. 

In 2015, I ran 114+ miles, hiked 35+ miles, walked 130+ miles and completed more WOD's than I can even count. This is my healthy life...every day making the decision to keep going and to make healthy choices as often as I can. I am so thankful for this life and I refuse to waste it. I cannot wait to see what 2016 will bring! 

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you always for your support and encouraging words, I cannot express how appreciative I am for you! Here's to a healthy new year and new opportunities to uncover your amazing strengths.